Graphical Web Games
Casual board, card, arcade, and puzzle games provide countless hours of entertainment to millions of Internet users every day. Although they are usually less sophisticated than their retail brethren, the selection spans every genre there is and then some. There is something for everyone, whether you're into poker, roleplaying games, Risk-like strategy, or revisiting classic arcade titles of years gone by.
These games will run in a Web browser, they have relatively low hardware requirements, and they typically work on Macs as well as Windows PCs. A lot of Web games are free, but there are also sites that offer premium games, tournaments, and prizes for a fee. In some cases, purchasing a subscription will allow you to play without seeing advertisements. Playing with a friend is easy, as a growing number of games have multiplayer options and integrated chat.
There is a bewildering variety of casual Web games on the Net, but this list of game collections is a good place to start narrowing down what you want to play.
Web Browser Add-ons
All the most commonly used Web browsers, including Internet Explorer and Firefox, support the software add-ons (or plug-ins) necessary to play Web games, and updates are now often handled automatically as well. The most frequently used add-ons for games are Java, Flash, and Shockwave. Some browsers give you the option to enable and disable add-ons individually. These add-ons will have to be enabled for the games that use them to run properly.
If you are having problems running Web games, you may need to update your add-ons manually.
- Java - The official Java site will verify which version of Java you have installed and provides free downloads of the latest version.
- Flash Player - Flash is getting more common all the time, so there is a good chance you already have this one, but here is where you will find it if you need it.
- Shockwave Player - Shockwave is very similar to Flash, but it has some good features for games, so a lot of more complex Web games use it. Unlike Flash, it's not usually installed automatically along with your browser. The download is free and its very simple to use.
Casual Game Downloads
You'll notice that many casual games are offered as stand-alone programs that won't run in a Web browser, but must instead be downloaded and installed on your computer. In some cases these games are identical to their Web counterparts, or the Web version is a demo of the full product which can be downloaded at a price. Technically speaking, a game that won't run in a Web browser is not a Web game, but it's a subtle distinction that novices are often unaware of, especially considering how similar the games themselves can be.
Long before the average computer had any sort of graphical capabilites, text-based games were being played on university networks and over extremely slow dial-up connections. Commonly known as multi-user dungeons (MUDs), many of these text-based games have been adapted for play over the Internet using a MUD client, or more recently, a Web browser.
Text-based games have little or no graphics. Like their pen-and-paper predecessors, they rely on the written word, random numbers, and statistics. Because the online worlds these games are played in don't have to be rendered on the screen, they are limited only by the imaginations of the creators and players. A slow connection has very little impact on gameplay, and they can handle huge numbers of concurrent users. Another advantage to text-based games is that they have way lower system requirements than graphical games. They can be played on pretty much any computer connected to the Internet, and people are even finding ways to get them to work on handheld devices and cellphones.
If you want to give text-based gaming a try, this section has links to some of the better MUDs and MUD resources available on the Net.